I have two master’s degrees and a well-established career. I also have a first degree black belt in taekwondo. I manage my finances and pay my bills like an independent woman in a Beyonce song. That and a quarter won’t even buy you a cup of coffee anymore. Despite all these credentials, I found myself struggling to follow instructions that were intended to be simple enough for children during taekwondo class Monday night.
Being an overly educated, intelligent, complex-thinking adult brings with it the tendency to f*ck up really simple things…you know…like where to stand in line although it’s just slightly different than how we normally do it, or say…doing a series of snap kicks across the room and then immediately switching to roundhouse kicks on the way back, which we haven’t done in that exact sequence before. I swear I could have done brain surgery right there on the floor, and that would have made more sense than what I was being asked to do. Other than Grandmaster, who urged us to give ourselves a half-hearted round of applause for a job well done, everyone seemed frustrated and cranky by the end of class.
In my defense, I did some killer flying snap kicks at the beginning of that set of drills, and all the other black belts were just as confused as I was about the logistics. All it took was a slight change to the routine, and we were dumbfounded and helpless. The red belts had no problem following along, probably because they’re used to everyone yelling at them, and they got the added benefit of watching the black belts screw up first.
I like sequences, patterns, and routines. I eat the same breakfast and lunch every day. I plan my outfits for the entire week on Sunday afternoon. My keys are ALWAYS in their designated bowl, and my bed is made every morning, even on weekends. Routine, planning, and organization make my life much easier. Any deviation in the pattern, though, seems to knock my common sense down by about 20 points. Form the line a little differently or do kicking drills in a different way in taekwondo class? Receive instructions in a slightly different way? Hold a focus pad for an unusual kicking combination? Oh hell no, it’s all over. My highly structured little world has just imploded.
The funny thing is, I keep things very relaxed in other aspects of my life, especially at work. I have little tolerance for digging into the details and am okay with vagueness and ambiguity, which isn’t always a good thing and sets me apart from many of my coworkers, but it keeps me from getting too lost in the gobbledegook of corporatespeak and the needless fretting about the “what ifs.” Here’s the issue, here’s the decision we made, boom, done, this meeting should have ended thirty minutes ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy my job very much and feel like I’ve hit the jackpot with some of the cool things I’ll get to do this year. And yet, I’m emotionally detached, keep things streamlined and simple, and poof! Things almost always work out in my favor because I’m not worrying about anything or thinking things to death. I’m even cool with the dreaded and seemingly constant change in the workplace.
I “work smart” at my job and even at home in my organized way, but I wonder if I’m working “too hard” in taekwondo, meaning I’m getting lost in the details rather than keeping it simple, detaching myself from the outcome (I must do a perfect spin kick this time or all will be lost!!), and letting things happen naturally. I’ve learned how to be more efficient as far as maintaining physical endurance, but mentally the wheels are still churning at an accelerated rate.
As I hinted in my January post, and as I’ll expand upon in my upcoming Valentine’s Day post (stay tuned!), my “heart,” meaning the metaphorical, emotional one, is rapidly disappearing without much conscious action on my part. That’s a good thing! I feel much more at peace about my life in general and more detached from many things I used to worry about. If I don’t have a heart, it can’t be broken, right?
I’m still in this world but not of it—except in taekwondo. Taekwondo seems to be the last bastion of passion left on the dwindling list of things I actually give a sh*t about. While I am a better, more caring, hard-working, and more loving version of myself in the dojang, I’m also more vulnerable and more open to heartbreak. In this aspect I’m still a people-pleaser and feel like if I don’t do a good job in the dojang, I am letting down people I care about. That bothers me more than the thought of letting myself down.
I’m not okay with ambiguity in the dojang the way I am at the office. I don’t need things to be perfect, but I want them to be right. I’ve gotten over much of the self-consciousness I experienced as a color belt, but I still care very much—maybe too much–about doing a good job and making sure I’m constantly learning and improving. I work harder in there than I ever have at anything else in my life, including those two graduate degrees. Maybe that’s why it’s harder to let it go and let it happen.
But sometimes there is no deeper meaning. There is no room for negotiation. There are no “moving pieces,” as we like to say in the corporate world. There’s nothing to worry about. Sometimes face value is all there is. Getting lost in the details, the “what ifs,” and too many technical questions means we miss what is right in front of us. A slight variation in the familiar makes us suddenly question ourselves, and our confidence, along with the common sense I mentioned earlier, is in danger of drooping.
So what to do when you’re knocked off your perfect little pedestal of predictability?
-Roll with it. Be okay with screwing up; just make sure you correct yourself quickly.
-Don’t worry too much about what other people think. Trust me, we’re all too wrapped up in ourselves to take time out to judge anyone else. Do what’s needed for the people who are holding you accountable, but don’t waste time second-guessing every step. They’ll forgive you, and if they don’t—well, you don’t need them in your life.
-Learn from it.
-Embrace the new. A change in routine may be just what you need.
-Let it go. Life isn’t perfect. That’s okay. You’re still you, and you’ll still be you years from now when you’ve forgotten about whatever little hiccup put a wrinkle in your day. If it helps, get a little morbid and remind yourself that NONE of this matters because we’ll all be dead! Hooray!!
As for thinking too much, I’m looking forward to sparring class tomorrow, when my lizard brain takes over, and I punch and kick without a care in the world.